Calculus of self-interest, Chasing the crowd, Fear of Missing Out, FFFOMO, FOMO, Indistractable, JOMO, Knowing and being Known, Luke 15:11-32, Missing out to not missing IT, Paradox of Choice, Relationship for which we have been made, Social Media, Squandered on reckless living, The graveyard of people's lives, The Phobia of our day
We live in interesting times, don’t we? Bombarded by information, strung along by social media, or fantasying about the lives of others. David Brooks writes:
Many live lives as a series of serial adventures, wandering about in the indeterminacy of your own passing feelings and your own changeable heart…
You will be plagued by a fear of missing out. Your possibilities are endless, but your decision-making is hopelessly flat…
A life of commitment means saying a thousand noes for the sake of a few precious yeses.
The Paradox of Choice
Social scientist Barry Swartz even coined a phrase to describe this suffering of endless possibilities as “The Paradox of Choice.” It shows up in experiences as mundane as choosing jams to more serious life decisions such as selecting a date. Subterranean to this paradox is the notion that “a better match is always right around the corner”.
By this logic, Ellie Krupnick writes, “modern dating is a never-ending conveyor belt of jam jars, with a seemingly unlimited variety and a bottomless supply. This leads some daters to abstain from actively dating…”
FOMO in a Social Media World
This fear that you might miss something/one better, or something more for an infinite bucket list appears to be fostered by social media. The Guardian reported that Essena O’Neill, an Australian teenager with more than half a million followers on Instagram, made headlines after announcing she was quitting Instagram because it is “contrived perfection made to get attention”.
I remember I obsessively checked the like count for a full week since uploading it,” she wrote of her first-ever post on Instagram, a selfie that now has close to 2,500 likes. “It got 5 likes. This was when I was so hungry for social media validation … Now marks the day I quit all social media and focus on real life projects.
Michelle Linker, 24: ‘I absolutely feel insecure’
I get serious Fomo (fear of missing out) with Instagram, and with all social media. People are publicizing usually something really cool or fun that they’re doing, or at least they make it appear that way. I absolutely feel insecure.
… I do feel a pressure to look particularly good. I would never post a photo that wasn’t flattering of me.
For more, see Guardian article: “Young Women on Instagram and Self-Esteem.”
FFFOMO (Freedom From FOMO)
How many would like to be able to say what O’Neill said: “Now marks the day I quit all social media and focus on real life projects.” Aaah – getting back to reality; what’s that?
How many would love to experience FFFOMO – the freedom from the fear of missing out in a social media world overrun and interwoven with false narratives and too many stories to follow, emulate, or savour?
How many would just love to experience JOMO – the joy of missing out – of regaining a sanity of self-hood, of being at peace and in your right mind, of being satisfied by being… remember that? Being content.
It is interesting that so long ago Jesus even told a story of a young man who suffered from the craziness of FOMO. He tells a parable about a young son who wanted to experience the world in all its freedom in the absence of restraint. Without putting it into words, this person suffered from the hyper-individualism that undermines any connection not based on the calculus of self-interest; in the end it leads to a “degradation of the human person” (David Brooks).
This apparent freedom from restraint found the young son spending the entirety of his father’s inheritance, or as Luke records: the son “squandered his property in reckless living.”
Is this what FOMO really is? Reckless living by chasing after the crowd of endless choices?
The Graveyard of People’s Lives
Emily Theis, 24: ‘It’s not real’
On Instagram it’s like I have this graveyard of people’s lives I’m paying attention to. It’s kind of like half-hearted friend making. You put yourself in a position of knowing a lot about them, but without actually knowing them.
Knowing without really knowing is probably as good a summary of the friendless loneliness so many are experiencing these days. We want to be known; we need to be known.
In the parable Jesus told, the young man “came to his senses” before he started to return to his father’s home. To his surprise, his dad was waiting; his dad had not forgotten him for the son was a known person; truly known and truly loved.
The Key: Knowing and Being Known
I wonder if that’s the key? I wonder if the only way you can get free from FOMO is to know the Joy of being truly known. It means exchanging the focus of our desire from what could be missed in this world — to the confidence that missing out is not missing it: the relationship for which we have been made.
In an ancient letter to the Corinthian Church, the Apostle Paul wrote:
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
This is more enigma than dogma.
For more on this topic listen to Steph Gaudreau’s podcast, “Goodbye FOMO, Hello JOMO.”